Is it expensive to island hop in Hawaii? Here's how to save money and fly between islands.

If you're flying to Hawaii, the most remote archipelago in the world, why limit your trip to just one island? Enter: island hopping.

Of the eight main Hawaiian islands – out of a total of 137 – people are allowed to visit six of them:

  • Hawaii Island

  • Kauai

  • Lanai

  • Maui

  • Molokai

  • Oahu

"Travelers like to explore the diversity of the islands; I suggest selecting two that offer a nice contrast to each other for a more fulfilling experience," Bruce Fisher, owner and travel planner for Hawaii Aloha Travel, said.

Each island offers its own distinct vibe and activities. Oahu has the bustling city energy, while Kauai and Hawaii Island run at a more relaxed pace.

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How can you travel between the Hawaiian islands?

Unless you're on a cruise touring the Hawaiian islands, the main mode of transportation between islands is by commercial airplane. (There is a ferry between Lanai and Maui, which costs adults $30 for one way.)

Flight times between the islands are relatively short – usually less than an hour and sometimes as quick as 34 minutes,  such as the Honolulu, Oahu, to Lihue, Kauai, route. Most are direct too, except for the route between Lihue and Hilo on Hawaii Island, which requires a stop in Honolulu.

Flights are plenty between the four main island airports:

  • Hawaii Island (Kona International Airport and Hilo International Airport).

  • Kauai (Lihue Airport).

  • Maui (Kahului Airport is the main airport, although there is also Hana Airport).

  • Oahu (Honolulu International Airport).

Starting from around 5 or 6 a.m., interisland flights are scheduled at least every hour until the last flight, at around 8 or 9 p.m. on either Hawaiian Airlines or Southwest Airlines.

•Hawaiian Airlines offers the most flights – 18 routes with an average of 170 daily flights between the islands. Hawaiian also "eliminated fees to change tickets on any route in their network, making it a very flexible option for travelers," according to a Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson.

•Southwest has five interisland routes with up to 60 flights a day, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Brad Hawkins said. Out of Honolulu, 29 of its 40 daily departures are to neighboring islands.

Looking North along the Windward Oahu coast.
Looking North along the Windward Oahu coast.

Out of the six islands you can visit, Lanai and Molokai aren't as accessible and are not flown to by Hawaiian and Southwest. They also don't fly to Hana Airport, a smaller airport located in east Maui. For those routes, Mokulele Airlines, run by Southern Airways Express, is your only option unless you want to book a private charter. Mokulele flies to Honolulu, Lihue, Molokai, Kahului, Hana, Kona and Lanai.

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When is it cheapest to fly between islands?

Generally, the cheapest flights tend to be the ones early in the morning or the last flight out on Hawaiian and Southwest, Fisher said.

The Oahu-Maui combo is the most popular among Fisher's clients. Here is the cost breakdown for a Honolulu to Kahului flight for Tuesday, April 11, on Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest Airlines on their lowest classes, as of March 15:

Hawaiian Airlines, for the main cabin:

  • Morning: $44 for the first four flights, departing between 5:45 and 7:40 a.m.

  • Midday: $44-$129.

  • Evening: $44, departing from 1:30 p.m. until the last flight at 8:59 p.m.

Southwest Airlines, for a Wanna Get Away ticket:

  • Morning: $39 for the first three flights, departing between 6:15 and 9:15 a.m.

  • Midday $39-$44.

  • Evening: $39, departing from 2:40 p.m. until the last flight at 8:20 p.m.

It's also usually cheaper to fly on a weekday than a weekend, although it's typically not a big difference. For example, on Hawaiian, the same flight as explored above goes for $64 on Friday, April 14, and $54 on Saturday, April 15. On Southwest, it ranges from $64 to $69 and $54 to $59, respectively, for a Wanna Get Away ticket.

Unfortunately, Mokulele flights tend to cost more than Hawaiian or Southwest. That same one-way Honolulu to Kahului route on April 14 costs between $116 to $193. A one-way from Honolulu to Lanai on the same day is between $68 to $128.

Do you need a rental car to island hop for the day?

It depends on what you want to do.

"We get a lot of folks that just want to come to Oahu for the day to see Pearl Harbor but in which case we recommend flying over and just Uber to Pearl Harbor," Fisher said. "We also get a lot of people that want to go to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for the day and for that we do recommend a car but doing an island hop for the day can be expensive."

As of March 15, renting a compact car with Enterprise, located at Kahului Airport, from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 14, is estimated at $48 a day. For the same day, on Oahu, it estimates $51. On Hawaii Island, a compact car with Budget Car Rental is about $54.

In this Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, photo released by the National Park Service tourists visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the first day the park reopened after volcanic activity forced the park to close for more than four months in Hawaii.
In this Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, photo released by the National Park Service tourists visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the first day the park reopened after volcanic activity forced the park to close for more than four months in Hawaii.

If you don't want to rent a car, consider what island you're going to. Oahu has the most transportation options and the most reliable public transportation system compared to the other islands. Uber on Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island is more expensive and less available.

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Another option is looking into booking an excursion with a tour company that could pick you up and drop you back off at the airport. For one family going to Oahu, Hawaii Island, Kauai and Maui over the course of 10 days, Fisher booked a half-circle island tour on Oahu with airport pickup for about $199 per person.

What should you keep in mind before island hopping?

Before you book multiple flights, there are a few things to keep in mind. "(A lot of people) think they can just hop around at will!" Fisher said. "Trying to do four islands in five days is just being way too over-ambitious."

With everything the islands each have to offer, Fisher said that the "general rule of thumb is to spend at least three to four nights on each island, so if you only have six or fewer nights, don't attempt to visit all the islands."

Here are some tips to help you plan interisland travel in Hawaii:

  • Although flight times are quick, island hopping still takes time, especially if you're going for just the day. Remember, you have to get to the airport (and maybe encounter rush hour traffic on the way there), go through security, and board and deplane. Be sure to factor those delays into your itinerary.

  • If you are staying overnight, remember that hotel check-in typically begins at 3 p.m., so unless you want to kill time, you may prefer to select a later flight.

  • Consider what activities you want to do and their distance from the airport, especially if you're there for a day trip. Getting to your destination from the airport could take up most of your time there. A big excursion, such as the entire Road to Hana, would be tricky to pull off during a day trip to Maui. It usually takes at least eight hours to navigate the winding road and take in all the scenery, including stops. This also isn't something you'd want to rush or partially check out.

  • Bonus tip: Be strategic about your seat selection so you get the most out of your island hopping experience. Choose the port side (left) for outbound from Honolulu and starboard (right) for inbound flights so you can enjoy the bird's-eye view of the islands' stunning landscape.

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Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Everything you need to know about island hopping in Hawaii